What to know before deciding to jump out of a plane? Is it what I expected? No, not at all, but it’s not that big of a deal! After having been recommended a Groupon to jump from 18,000ft for $241, I simply went for it. I met my friend up who I was skydiving with the morning of and we carpooled 40 minutes to our reservation at 9am at Skydive Space Center, near John Kennedy Space Center, in Titusville, Florida. There, we showed proof of purchase and ID, filled out and signed a few liability waiver forms, go figure, and were then given the option to be filmed and photographed on GoPros and purchase the footage on a DVD or USB. Additionally, if you choose, there is an aerial photographer who actually skydives with the group shooting photos of you during the entire skydive. These expense add up and, at most, it would have been an extra $225. We stuck with just the GoPro footage and pictures on a USB which added an extra $125 each to our total cost.
The process is pretty nonchalant, dare I say casual. You stand idly by then are introduced to your skydiver, he or she puts you in your harness and gives you a quick run-through on how to position yourself for the jump and during the fall. The gist: keep your elbows in, stay in a narrow-stanced squat, lean your head far back, when you get tapped on the shoulders during your dive kick your legs back and spread your arms out like a bird. You yourself don’t actually jump it’s more like you just stand there and let yourself be hurled out of a moving plane.
The plane was far smaller than I expected as the inside is probably similar in size to a stretch limousine. You’re literally harnessed to your skydiver so everyone is sitting in everyone’s laps. The way you sit dictates the order of who will jump when so I was one group away from the door which indicated that I would be jumping second. Within what feels like a couple of minutes the plane goes from leaving the hangar to 18,000ft. This is when it gets real. Especially for me, because I had a perfect view of the door and got to see buildings and cars become smaller and smaller until it seemed like you were on the way to space.
There’s a light at the door which blinks green or red to indicate when the next jumpers are ready to go. As soon as the first group jumped, panic set in as it’s so nonchalant to the experienced divers, but you literally see someone get sucked out of a plane within arm’s reach. For whatever reason, I thought there would be a brief pause or intermission for me to get it together, process what I just saw, and get mentally ready to jump, but no! It’s almost immediate! You’re up next and so I heeded the commands given prior, got into my ready stance, and tried my hardest to relax when all you want to do is brace yourself.
What’s the feeling of jumping and falling? It’s not a good feeling. I’ve heard some compare it to a roller-coaster, others to gliding, but to me, it felt like putting your head into a fan on high on a hot summer day while you dived off a high diving board when you’re a kid. It’s very hard to breathe from the air pressure, which is why the professional divers wore full-face helmets, I was stuck with a measly pair of goggles which only protected my eyes. Breathing through my nose was impossible, so taking hard, deep breaths through my mouth was the only way I was able to get air. For a brief moment, it felt like I was going to pass out simply because I couldn’t get the air I needed and had to adjust accordingly. The jump is logically a minute or so, but for me it felt like ten minutes. The adrenaline is very clearly in effect and trying to take it all in, while following instructions, it feels a bit overwhelming even though your only job is to breath and to stretch your arms back on command.
Then the parachute gets released. Having gone paragliding twice in Taiwan I was so relieved I knew exactly what to do. What scared me? My Italian skydiver suddenly goes, “Here hold these,” and hands the reins to the parachute to me and begins to adjust my harness. Panicked, I exclaim, “Oh shit, are we good?!” To which he nonchalantly replied, “Yes, just making it more comfortable for you for landing.” I saw what he meant, he gave me more slack so that I can stand as opposed to being confined to a seated position. After what feels like a few minutes of sightseeing and drinking it all in we get ready for landing. It’s quite simple actually in tandem. You just revert back to a squat position and depending on the speed when you’re about to come into contact with the ground you will need to do a swift walk or run otherwise you could end up face-planting by landing faster and harder than you were ready to.Did I nearly shit myself? Yes. But would I do it again? Hell yes! What’s the point of living if you don’t get out of your comfort zone and do things that make you feel alive at least once in a while?